Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai charged under national security law

Hong Kong, Dec 11 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong pro-democracy advocate and media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been charged under the city’s national security law, suspected of collusion with a foreign country, his Apple Daily newspaper and public broadcaster RTHK reported Friday.

In addition, at 12.30 pm local time (04:30 GMT) Hong Kong police said that following an “in-depth investigation” a 73-year-old man was charged with “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.”

The case will be brought before West Kowloon Court on Saturday morning.

Lai, the 73-year-old owner of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and founder of Next Digital, is the fourth person – and the city’s highest-profile figure – to have been charged under the national security law since it came into effect on June 30.

Anyone convicted of violating the law, which Beijing imposed on Hong Kong following months of anti-government and anti-Beijing protests, could face life in prison.

Critics say the law, which punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, effectively crushes civil liberties and ends the “one country, two systems” political arrangement, which has differentiated Hong Kong from mainland China.

“#HongKong’s practice is getting so similar to mainland #China’s way to silence dissidents,” tweeted the NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders after charges were laid against Lai.

An ardent critic of the Chinese Communist Party, Lai is already in custody after a court denied him bail on Dec. 3 following his arrest for alleged fraud related to a building lease. The case has been adjourned to April 2021 and Lai will remain in detention until then.

Meanwhile, activist Tony Chung, 19, also charged under the national security law, was convicted on Friday morning in a separate case of desecrating the Chinese national flag and taking part in an unauthorized assembly last year. Under Hong Kong law, the two offenses carry a maximum prison term of three and five years, respectively.

Chung, former convener of the pro-independence group Studentlocalism, will be sentenced on Dec. 29. His next court hearing on the national security charge is on Jan. 7. EFE-EPA


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